My digital essay, entitled Call Me, Maybe, is about the marketing and advertising of smartphones on TV commercials. In this project I analyzed five different brands of smartphone ads, noting the strategies they used, the impressions they made, and their general level of effectiveness. The presentation was done in Prezi, which made it easy to combine video clips with text. After going through all the commercials, I went on to explore broader issues, such as why the industry uses this type of marketing, and what the future holds for smartphone advertising. While the title will be outdated by the time next year’s class reads the description, the ideas and concepts discussed in the essay will hopefully still be relevant.
I first came up with the idea for this project while I was at home for a weekend, watching cable television instead of my usual online bootlegged shows. I began to notice the force of the messages in commercials for iPads, computers, smartphones, and other technological devices. These products are all relatively new, and yet the commercials were painting them as entirely essential. I wanted to explore how those in advertising managed to do so, as well as why they were using old media to advertise for devices that mainly utilize digital media. Ultimately I narrowed my focus down to smartphones, as I thought it would be easier from a comparative perspective to look at the same type of device.
My initial instinct was to work with iMovie, since I thought it would be easy to insert the commercial clips into the film, but I quickly realized that this would make for a long and boring digital essay. The whole movie would have ended up lasting 20 minutes, with blocks of text interrupting semi-entertaining video clips. After going over my options within the group workshop, I decided on Prezi, which allows for the combination of pictures, video clips, and texts, and is still able to provide a linear narrative.
Prezi proved to be the optimal choice for this type of presentation, since the viewer of the digital essay can choose to either follow my train of thought sequentially, or jump around, watching only the ads they have time for or are interested in. It also gave me freedom in a visual sense, since I was able to include my comments on a video within the same frame as the video clip itself. Prezi also allowed me to spatially group together the intro, body, and conclusion of the essay, providing a literal framework for the progression of the story. It allowed me to be somewhat formulaic with regards to the analyses of the advertisements, using the same shapes and overarching themes for each brand. This consistency made my readers more able to draw comparisons and know what to expect. With regards to sizing, I could emphasize more important markers or points by making them larger.
While Prezi proved successful for this type of multimedia presentation, it isn’t the type of presentation that is conducive to paragraph-long blocks of texts. Often I had to break up ideas into multiple boxes of text, or make lists of bullet points, since a paragraph would be confusing from a visual perspective. Additionally, there were parts of the essay that didn’t necessarily need to follow a particular sequence (such as the order of the ads), but I was forced to make choices on which commercials the viewers would see first, and in what order. This might have created an impression regarding importance or effectiveness that I didn’t want to make. On a more technical note, frames always had to be the same shapes, so at times it was difficult to get the exact right shape and focus on a specific idea.
While I used the first workshop to determine the right sort of formatting, the second workshop was really useful in terms of content. Before the workshop my digital essay didn’t follow a very clear sequence. My analysis of the ads was the most solid part, but my classmates didn’t really know what point I was trying to make. They suggested to me that I come up with a stronger introduction and a clearer conclusion, which utilized the same voice present in the ad analyses. These would guide the reader to come up with their own ideas about why the ads matter, and give them something to think about after seeing the ads. Ultimately I decided to look at the size of the industry and why companies are still focusing on TV advertising in my concluding statements. I also inserted more pictures, to keep the presentation visually interesting even after the TV commercials stopped screening.